Pundits are telling readers not to pay attention to polls until closer to the general election on one hand. On the other hand, they’re telling people that Bernie Sanders would have lost no matter what. Convenient? Well… you be the judge.
In his May 30th op-ed, Feel The Math, Paul Krugman writes:
“First, at a certain point you have to stop reporting about the race for a party’s nomination as if it’s mainly about narrative and “momentum.” That may be true at an early stage, when candidates are competing for credibility and dollars. Eventually, however, it all becomes a simple, concrete matter of delegate counts.
That’s why Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee;…”
A day later, in his May 31st blog post, Paul Krugman wrote:
“In this campaign so far, the settled narrative is (1) American public full of rage at established figures (2) Hillary in trouble. Initially, actually, this was “public fed up with Bush and Clinton dynasties”, but had to be modified once it turned out that younger, fresher GOP establishment faces were equally hapless.
But what if none of this is true?”
Krugman goes on to write that it is doubtful that Americans are full of rage because President Obama enjoys great approval ratings. Believe it or not, President Obama isn’t running for office and, while there are those out there who are writing that once Obama begins campaigning for Clinton, things will look even better for her. The evidence? Were Obama able to run for a third term, his reelection would be a cakewalk. That’s his reelection, mind you!
Then, near the end of his rather short piece, after giving Clinton the “she won all these millions of votes and is therefore popular” treatment, Krugman notes that there is the question of what die-hard Sanders voters will do. Krugman is always careful to insert caveats like this one into his op-eds. In this instance, die-hard Sanders voters (at least 30% of them) are said to have vowed to either sit out the November election, write in Sanders, or vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. So, one wonders about these millions of people who gave Clinton the “popular vote…” As Sanders supporters have been pointing out for quite some time, when independent voters are not barred from voting in the primaries, the picture looks entirely different. As for the Black vote, as some have been honest enough to point out, it isn’t monolithic. The variances are generational and regional, as evidenced by analyses of the results of primaries outside the Deep South. Wherever Sanders had higher name recognition, he garnered at least 30% of the Black vote. Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota are good examples of that variance.
But I digress. The media has presented a very blurry picture of public sentiment in this election, using all kinds of polls to express opinion, rather than show trends. Some, Southern California CBS affiliate KNX 1070, for example, in its May 31st broadcasts, used a poll by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution to announce that Hillary Clinton was surging.
The problem? When you go look at the institute’s website, you find that the poll they just released was taken a month ago, well before either candidate began assiduously crisscrossing the state. Just four days before Stanford released its poll, another California university released a poll it conducted days before. A small poll by California’s PPIC shows that Bernie Sanders has caught up to Hillary Clinton in the primary and is now in a virtual statistical tie. In a Just 1st Marist-NBC poll, Sanders trailed Clinton at 49-47%. But, remember, Krugman hints that we shouldn’t really believe the polls…
“Barring the equivalent of a meteor strike, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; despite the reluctance of Sanders supporters to concede that reality, she’s currently ahead of Donald Trump.”
[Update] In a new USC/Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, Senator Bernie Sanders has overtaken Hillary Clinton.
So, what’s a voter to think? Well, if you read Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight, you will get the impression that Clinton is doing fantastic and Sanders is a grumpy sore loser.
“Realistically, if you throw everything together, the math suggests that Sanders doesn’t have much to complain about. If the Democratic nomination were open to as many Democrats as possible — through closed primaries — Clinton would be dominating Sanders.”
Silver updated his forecast today, June 2nd, and now gives Sanders a 5% chance of winning the California primary when all of the local polls have been in agreement on one thing: this primary is a very close one. Whether Sanders is within 2% of overtaking Clinton or overtook her position by a single percentage point, that 95% chance Nate Silver says Clinton has of winning has dwindled.
But the other Nate, the one who replaced Silver at the New York Times and Krugman says he reads assiduously, writes:
“The most recent wave of national surveys shows Mrs. Clinton winning just 55 to 72 percent of Mr. Sanders’s supporters. She’s faring far worse among young and liberal voters than one would expect.
The good news for Mrs. Clinton is that there’s a lot of room for improvement. She could make gains after winning the nomination, much as Mr. Trump already has. That could leave her with a considerable advantage.”
He still concludes, after writing all that about why Clinton has lost ground and that she has “a modest lead at best,” that she will still overwhelmingly win. Where is the evidence? Apparently, one’s belief, if one calls oneself numerate, is as good as golden. Meanwhile, on the reporting side the the Times, you can find plenty of pieces with unnamed sources expressing grave doubts about Clinton’s ability to win.
In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Douglas Schoen writes that “Clinton Might Not Be The Nominee.” Why? Well, aside from quoting the same PPIC poll I quote above and in direct opposition to Krugman who maintains that momentum is no longer a thing, Schoen posits that a Sanders win in California would change Clinton’s electoral prospects, especially as Clinton and Trump are now in a virtual tie, according to recent polling by Real Clear Politics. I quoted those polls in a recent piece. Then, Schoen adds in Clinton’s email troubles to the mix, and echoes what former House Speaker Boehner recently said. Clinton may well end up withdrawing from the election if she is indicted at the conclusion o the FBI’s investigation into the private email server. Schoen, like Boehner, predicts that it will be Joe Biden, and not Bernie Sanders, who will end up leading the Democrats.
“But the most likely scenario is that Vice President Joe Biden—who has said that he regrets “every day” his decision not to run—enters the race.
Mr. Biden would be cast as the white knight rescuing the party, and the nation, from a possible Trump presidency.”
While the liberal media has largely stayed away from the topic of Biden as eventual Democratic nominee, the right and right of center press has not.
Polling, as the vast majority of readers know, is a snapshot in time. There is absolutely no reason to pay attention to them only at certain times and not at other times. While I would agree with those who write that one should not take general election polls seriously at the start of the primary season, a full year and a half before the general election, one should pay attention to them now, at least for their trending value. There is significance in the fact that, from double digit highs, Clinton is now neck and neck with, of all people, Donald Trump in a national matchup.
And, indeed, in a newly released poll, today, Quinnipiac posted findings in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both suffer from an almost complete lack of favorability:
“American voters do not believe Republican Donald Trump will build a wall on the Mexican border or expel 11 million illegal immigrants, if he’s elected president, and voters don’t believe Democrat Hillary Clinton will even try to limit secret money in politics or reign in the power of Wall Street, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.”
In addition, Quinnipiac details:
“Hillary Clinton would not even try to remove secret money from politics, 63 percent of voters say, while 9 percent say she would succeed and 18 percent say she would try and fail.
She also would not try to curb the power of Wall Street, 56 percent of voters say, as 15 percent say she would succeed and 21 percent say she would try and fail.
“No matter which candidate you pick, you can cut the cynicism with a knife,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.”
This comes on the heels of yet another new poll, by the Associated Press and NORC, that finds that most voters feel helpless about this election and disconnected from their political parties:
“According to the poll released Monday, just 12 percent of Republicans think the GOP is very responsive to ordinary voters, and only 25 percent of Democrats think the same about their party.
Among all Americans, only 8 percent of respondents think the Republican Party is very or extremely responsive to what ordinary voters think, 29 percent think the GOP is moderately responsive and 62 percent think it’s only slightly or not at all responsive.
For the Democratic Party, 14 percent of Americans think the party is very or extremely responsive to ordinary voters, 38 percent think it’s moderately responsive and 46 percent say it’s only slightly or not at all responsive.”
Remember, for more than a year now, poll after poll has demonstrated that Hillary Clinton’s favorability has been the lowest of any Democratic candidate in a presidential election in recent memory.
So, how are we to take these polls? We should pay attention and ignore those who insist, for a variety of self-serving reasons, that 2008 will repeat itself and people will get in line behind Hillary Clinton out of fear of the Drumpf. So far, for the reasons I’ve cited in other writings, there is no indication that this will be the case. Those who facilitate for the establishment in proposing that Joe Biden will be the DNC’s white knight should take heed and look far more closely to the clamors of discontent among the electorate. This election cycle is nothing like 2008 and there is plenty of evidence why. Most of that evidence is evident in the socio-economic surveys that have been published year after year, culminating in recent surveys just published by Pew Research and Gallup. Ignoring them, minimizing the significance of Senator Sanders’ candidacy, and running roughshod over the public’s wishes will only lead to more, not less anger. Establishment media pundits are playing mind games with voters. Meanwhile, disillusioned voters who just will not be told they are alone in feeling as they do, are disengaging from the media. Can you blame them?
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